Gender Responsive Governance: From Elizabeth Fry to Baroness Jean Corston

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This article provides an analysis of gender responsive discourses governing female offenders in England and Wales, from the 19th century penal reform endeavours of Elizabeth Fry to the 21st century proposals of Baroness Jean Corston. Despite a gap of nearly 200 years between the work of Fry and Corston, and some clear differences between their conclusions and recommendations, there are significant ideological and discursive continuities that should be addressed in order to illuminate the construction and impact of gendered penal strategies for women. Three discursive continuities are discussed here. First, that women who offend have intrinsic problems or deficiencies that must be addressed in order for reform/rehabilitation to occur. Second, that these 'deficiencies' require (what are presented as) ‘gentle’ or ‘benign’ gender specific institutional regimes. Third, that offending women must take personal responsibility for their own reform/rehabilitation by engaging with, and endorsing, these regimes. Finally, it is also argued that these regimes, whilst presented as individually beneficial and personally empowering, in reality reflect and serve broader social, economic and political interests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-46
JournalPrison Service Journal
VolumeNov 2019
Issue number246
Early online date1 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Gender responsivity
  • Neoliberalism
  • Corston Report
  • feminism


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